BRUSSELS/LONDON: The European Parliament and a British parliamentary committee on Tuesday invited Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg to speak following revelations that a firm working for Donald Trump’s US presidential campaign harvested data on 50 million users and to answer questions on fake news.

The parliament and the European Commission, the 28-nation EU executive, have already called for an urgent investigation into the scandal.

“We’ve invited Mark Zuckerberg to the European Parliament,” its President Antonio Tajani tweeted.

“Facebook needs to clarify before the representatives of 500 million Europeans that personal data is not being used to manipulate democracy.”

Facebook has faced worldwide criticism over the claims that Cambridge Analytica, the UK data analysis firm hired by Trump’s 2016 campaign, harvested and misused data on 50 million members.

The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt, a Belgian former prime minister, also called on the Facebook chief to personally answer the criticisms.

“When is Mark Zuckerberg going to explain what happened with our data? The data breach is an absolute scandal,” tweeted Verhofstadt, who heads the parliament’s liberal group. “The Euro­pean Parliament must start an investigation.”

The British parliamentary committee summoned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to answer questions on fake news as authorities step up efforts to determine whether data has been improperly used to influence elections.

The chairman of the UK parliamentary media committee, Damian Collins, said on Tuesday that his group has repeatedly asked Facebook how it uses data and that Facebook officials “have been misleading to the committee.” “It is now time to hear from a senior Facebook executive with the sufficient authority to give an accurate account of this catastrophic failure of process,” Collins wrote in a note addressed directly to Zuckerberg. “Given your commitment at the start of the New Year to ‘fixing’ Facebook, I hope that this representative will be you.”

The request to appear comes as Britain’s information commissioner said she was using all her legal powers to investigate the social media giant and Cambridge Analytica over the alleged misuse of data.

Commissioner Elizabeth Denham is pursuing a warrant to search Cambridge Analytica’s servers. She has also asked Facebook to cease in its efforts to pursue its own audit of Cambridge Analytica’s data use.

“Our advice to Facebook is to back away and let us go in and do our work,” she said.

Cambridge Analytica said it is committed to helping the UK investigation.

However, Denham gave the firm a deadline to produce the information she requested and it failed to meet it, her office said.

Denham said the prime allegation against Cambridge Analytica is that it acquired personal data in an unauthorised way, adding that the data provisions act requires platforms like Facebook to have strong safeguards against misuse of data.

Chris Wylie, who once worked for Cambridge Analytica, was quoted as saying the company used the data to build psychological profiles so voters could be targeted with ads and stories.

The firm found itself in further allegations of wrongdoing. Britain’s Channel 4 used an undercover investigation to record Cambridge Analytica’s chief executive, Alexander Nix, saying that the company could use unorthodox methods to wage successful political campaigns for clients.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2018

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